I’m spending Christmas Eve with my wife’s grandparents. Her parents are here as well, along with a few other relatives. We drove six hours, ate a delicious dinner, and opened gifts. Afterwards, we sat together and talked. At one point in the conversation, my mother in law and I sat alone at the kitchen table, discussing my recent marriage to her daughter. This post is about the topics we discussed. Love, and sacred moments, and fence posts.
My wife and I dated for several years before cohabitating. I didn’t think marriage would change much. We were already in a monogamous relationship, living under the same roof. We were already having arguments and making compromises. We were already in love. What would marriage provide? Nothing more than a certificate and a tax break… and maybe a piece of jewelry to symbolize that this hot stud was off the market.
Now, this is going to be very sappy. But I explained to my mother-in-law that being married brought our relationship to a different level I couldn’t quite explain. It’s an intangible, indescribable feeling. As an atheist, a skeptic, and a scientist… I realize it’s a mixture of societal values, inherent beliefs, and neuro-chemical reactions… but I’ll be damned if this honeymoon phase doesn’t seem somehow ethereal. My mother-in-law, being Catholic, described it as a Sacrament.
Being raised Catholic, I understood Sacraments in a purely academic manner as a covenant between God and his chosen people. As an atheist, I understood Sacraments from a social and psychological perspective. But as a son-in-law, I received a new definition. A Sacrament is an outward expression of inner grace. I liked that definition. It appealed to me in poetic fashion.
She explained that Sacraments don’t occur as part of a ritual. They are a specific moment or moments not bound by words. She asked when I felt the change I described… the incorporeal shift in my relationship. I answered immediately.
I’m a performer. I’ve performed on stage, in crowds, and on the internet (not in porn, you pervert… well, at least not yet). I don’t miss cues. I don’t forget lines. I don’t stumble on choreography. I nailed the wedding rehearsal. Go up, stand there. Wait for soon-to-be-wife. Retrieve her from father. Walk her to altar. Words words words boom let’s eat. The day of the wedding, I was relaxed. I was ready. I walked up the aisle as practiced. I turned to the front. My soon-to-be-wife and her father walked out.
That was the moment.
I froze. She got to the front of the aisle. She and her father stood there, waiting for me to see his cue and retrieve his daughter. But I didn’t. I simply stood there, eyes welled. I don’t believe in a soul… but if I did, I would describe it as having left its vessel for a moment. I snapped back to whispers of my groomsmen… and my father-in-law… and the audience… and the priests… and the wedding coordinators… all telling me to go get her.
That was the moment.
It led to a discussion of sacred moments. Or as I like to think of them, “fence posts:”
As you will see in future posts, I’m a man who enjoys the wackiness of life. This existence is chaotic, and it’s fun to sit back and enjoy the stupidity with detached amusement. I enjoy making jokes, I enjoy being silly, I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t subscribe to societal standards of what I should (or shouldn’t) be.
But to enjoy this chaos, we also need moments of seriousness to give it perspective. We need sacred moments. I don’t mean sacred in a religious or spiritual sense. I mean sacred in a way where… for a brief moment… you feel at one with the universe. The random clumping of atoms that compose your biology become aware of the other atoms making up everything else. It’s a sense of grounding… that everything simply is. A moment where we solemnly celebrate the uniqueness of the human condition… that we are temporary accidents in a grand timeline, and that all we have is now.
These sacred moments are fence posts. They serve as guides… stable foundations to ground ourselves between the empty space between. We whirl around in a pandemonium of rules and impulse, of plot and quirk, of life and death… and it’s all meaningless unless we have these fence posts to rest on, and look back, and think about the vastness of it all.
Fence posts aren’t religions or doctrines. They’re moments. They’re shared experiences. The ceremony itself isn’t the fence post. It’s the gravity you give to the situation, the contemplation of the circumstances that brought you there and the realization that things are different. They’re transitions. They’re changes. They’re growth and loss and solemnity.
This blog will have a couple fence posts. This entry is one of them. There was something sacred about the conversation with my mother-in-law. I call her “mom” now, a title I hold with only one other person on this planet. Some posts will be similar, a sacred examination of this life that grounds me in my hopes and fears, my doubts and aspirations. Some posts will be whimsical, nothing more than a reflection of the controlled chaos of an existence I share with you, my reader. The collective idiocy of our lives, if you will. The fence post entries will be a bit more serious. The whimsical ones will be… well, whimsical.
It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m probably going to edit this post quite a bit in the morning. But for now, despite any grammatical (or worse) errors in the text, and despite how horribly the above paragraphs may flow, I can boil it down to a basic concept.
Life consists of sacred moments that ground us in times of chaos.